The cockle is a bivalve in the mollusk family that many coastal fisherman rely on for food and to earn a living. With over 200 species of cockles--which look similar to the oyster--fisherman around the world harvest thousands per day. Learn how to harvest cockles and what tools are necessary for success.
- Skill level:
Understand where cockles are harvested. The majority of the cockle harvest happens on the coastal areas in Latin America and western Europe--mainly England. Depending on where the harvest takes place, the time of harvest varies. Some locations offer special seasons dedicated to the cockle harvest, due to other seafood harvesting like shrimp or lobster. Other areas harvest cockles year-round, dedicating 15 to 20 days per month to harvesting cockles.
Know that cockles are harvested in muddy and sandy areas. Muddy areas include swamp regions just inland of the coast. Sandy areas are right on the coastline.
Realize the best time to harvest cockles is at low tide. Cockles stay in shallow water to feed and when the tide recedes, they burrow a few inches under the sand. In a muddy area, the cockles are under a few inches of mud and must be dug out using special tools or your hand.
Gather the necessary tools used to harvest cockles. In primitive areas, the fisherman uses a bucket to hold the cockles and his hand to dig them up to the surface. In a commercial setting, special tools are used to harvest cockles. The "jumbo" is a plank of wood with handles on either side that is used to disturb the sand. This encourages the cockles to come to the surface. The "rake" is used to gather all cockles that come to the surface and to sort cockles by size. Small cockles are left in the sea to grow. A "craam" is a 3-pronged iron fork that scoops cockles out of the sand. Generally, a bucket or nylon bag is used to contain the harvested cockles.
Tips and warnings
- If harvesting cockles in muddy areas, take another person with you. Cocklers (people who harvest cockles) can get stuck in the mud and require assistance.